FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 6, 2009
Avondale, Pa. – The International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project, which hopes to assemble a DNA sequence library of the world’s species using barcode technology, has appointed Dr. Bernard W. Sweeney, Director of Stroud™ Water Research Center, to head its Freshwater Surveillance group.
One of iBOL’s ten working groups, each of which is focused on different organisms and environments, the Freshwater Surveillance group is particularly important as freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened by human activity, freshwater species are of particular socio-economic import, and they are also the standard metric used by scientists in environmental assessments such as water quality monitoring.
Sweeney was selected for the role because of the Stroud Center’s work using barcode technology to identify pollution-sensitive mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies, and his decades-long experience in freshwater research.
“As an aquatic ecologist, I’d love to know how many species there are in the “Exceptional Value” stream near our laboratory, something we can’t do with total certainty without barcode technology, but my ultimate goal is to be able to put that knowledge to work for the benefit of humanity. That’s the real value of this global effort,” said Sweeney of his appointment.
Sweeney’s group will initially concentrate on North America, working to create a freshwater “library of life” based first on museum collections of invertebrates most widely used for water quality assessment. The group will then compare the results of water quality assessments based on course identifications with those based on species level data.
These pilot studies, he hopes, will validate the benefits of identification based on DNA barcoding and help solidify the required funding to take the program to Phase II and the rest of the world. “If we’re successful,” said Sweeney, “then the rapid, accurate and precise biotic monitoring this program enables will ensure more effective protection, restoration and remediation efforts of all of our freshwater resources.”
With his appointment, Sweeney joins an elite group of scientists and a consortium of 25 countries with the common goal to revolutionize our ability to understand and monitor the world’s biodiversity. “The promise of iBOL and the work of the Freshwater Surveillance group is far reaching,” said Paul Hebert, Integrative Biology Professor at the University of Guelph, Canada and Scientific Director of iBOL. “We have an opportunity to make huge strides in both characterizing the world’s biodiversity and in finding real utility in that knowledge. Sweeney’s appointment to help lead the Freshwater Surveillance group represents an essential step towards attaining these goals.”
Sweeney will continue in his current role as Director of Stroud Center and will draw upon its talent and expertise, as well as that of colleagues around the globe, while executing his new charter. For more information on Dr. Bernard W. Sweeney, go to: https://stroudcenter.org/about/bernardsweeney.shtm. For more information on the International Barcode of Life project, go to: www.dnabarcoding.org/.